How to grow a small poultry business

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If you are going to expand a poultry business, you need a good business plan and a feasibility study, especially if you want to apply for funding. With a good business plan and a feasibility study showing a good outcome, it will also be possible to obtain a loan from a bank, or even investments. Note that this approach will require you to have a team in place, and to be knowledgeable about all aspects of poultry farming.

For those poultry farmers that are small scale farmers, growing more slowly may be a better approach to take. Organic growth, meaning that you grow the business using your profits, will give you the opportunity to test out new ideas, save funds to build your financial reserves, and keep more of the profit for yourself. The downside is that your growth will be slower because it will take you longer to get the finances that you need to grow.  You can however take the time to increase your knowledge about flock management, food safety, factors that influence production and how to avoid illnesses affecting poultry.

Assuming your poultry business is chickens, it is advisable to start with 50 – 100 hens (layers). This is a good-sized flock to learn from.

1. First, increase your expertise

To grow professionally, you need to develop your expertise in the following areas:

  • Correct chicken feed management
  • Impact of light on egg production
  • Housing and litter management
  • Diseases and medication
  • Breeding
  • Brooding management
  • Handling of birds
  • Water management
  • Biosecurity
  • Dangers of crowding
  • Food safety & hygiene
  • Government regulations

You can find a lot of information about these topics online. I have included some links to online resources about poultry farming at the end of this blog.

While you are working on increasing your knowledge about the topics mentioned above, you can start looking at the following ways to grow your business. Note that food safety and hygiene will be key technical areas to focus on if you really want to scale your business. Obviously, this is in addition to improving your business management skills.

2. Have your own point of sale

Having your own point of sale, whether it is a market stall or a retail store, is one of the easiest ways to start expanding your poultry business. You do need to do your financial analysis of course, and calculate whether it is commercially viable to run this point of sale. But if the answer is yes, it is a fantastic way to establish and build recognition for your brand. All products can be branded, from live chickens to chicken part and fresh eggs. You could even consider working with a business partner to reach more customers. For example, by selling pastry or catering products made from your products.

If moving to a physical point of sale is financially challenging at this time, see if you can start with branded packaging. Establishing your own brand will help customers recognise your product. If you succeed in consistently delivering quality, you will attract loyal customers. Don’t forget to support your brand with online marketing through Facebook as well as other strategies to attract more customers!

3. Home deliveries and mobile sales

Do you already offer customers the opportunity to buy your products and get them home delivered? Consider getting recurring customers by offering them weekly (or monthly) home deliveries of whatever they need. You could also consider offering them a discount if they agree to buy from you for 3 months or more. This discount might take the form of a bonus delivery after the 3 of 6 months, or a discount coupon given to customers after they have purchased from you for several months.

Can you offer mobile sales, going from one area to another to sell, while bearing in mind the need for food safety and hygiene? Using a refrigerated tricycle or a vehicle with refrigerated storage for meat could allow you to service butchers, restaurants and hotels in other areas.

4. Hire salespeople to join your small poultry business

Depending on the size of your business, having salespeople to bring you business can add a big boost to revenues and profits. This person could take care of the home deliveries or mobile sales. Or, they could be paid a commission based on how much new business they bring to you.

Make sure to have clear agreements in place regarding compensation and conduct. Also make sure that your salespeople showcase your brand. This could be through what they wear and how they interact with customers. It could also be through the materials that they carry with them, for example a branded folder with branded promotional materials. If you need to make free designs for posters, flyers, business cards etc, check out Canva. They have paid and free versions. The free version will be enough to cover most of your design needs.

5. Make and sell your own feed

Learning more about the requirements of good quality chicken feed will be part of increasing your expertise about poultry farming. Once you know how to produce this, you can use that knowledge to produce your own chicken feed. It will help you save costs, particularly if you can buy the ingredients in bulk.

However, you can also use this to expand your business. Can you produce chicken feed that has a higher quality than what is on the market? Or can you produce at cheaper cost? Consider expanding your business by adding this product.

Don’t forget to look for ways to create business partnerships. Are there farmers in your area who are producing the ingredients you need for the feed? If you agree to buy certain amounts from them monthly or yearly, you may be able to reduce costs and achieve a win-win situation. Lower costs for you, guaranteed income for them.

6. Produce and sell fertiliser

Running a poultry business also offers you another way to diversify your product offerings. Your chickens produce manure. Learn how to collect this safely, how to dry it and how to package it. And voilà, you have a new product to sell. Don’t forget your branding!

And remember the farmers that are producing ingredients for your chicken feed? Why not expand the partnership by selling chicken manure fertilizer to them? This could be very interesting, especially if your fertiliser is cheaper than what is available on the market.

If you are able to also provide them with some education about how best to use the fertiliser, or bring in somebody to do a farmers training workshop, you may also be able to help them get more and better quality harvests. Which of course also benefits your own business.

7. Sell pre-packaged meats

I’m sure you are already familiar with one way to do this: packaging and selling of chicken parts in bulk. But how about selling the meat (or eggs) as part of a meal package and combining this with your home delivery service?

Many recipes use chicken. Working with those same farmers, can they produce the vegetables for you that are needed for that particular recipe? You could buy things like seasoning in bulk and add it to the package. Your selling point? Just add rice. (Or cassava, yams, couscous or millet. Or whatever.) Or if you like, you could add this to the package too.

An interesting way to get recurring customers is to offer many different meal packages. You can ask customers to order their package by a certain date, so that you know how many and what types of packages you will need to prepare. Having customers order from you ahead of time will also give you the opportunity to order from your farmers on the day of packaging so that your customers get the freshest meat, eggs and vegetables.

Facebook can be your friend here. Create weekly flyers in Canva showcasing your brand, the meal packages and your contact details. Share on Facebook. You could add a weekly code that gives customers a discount (make sure your price is high enough!).

8. Keep building your skills

As your business expands, it will place greater demands on your business management skills. Logistics, inventory management, marketing & sales, business finances and business operations are areas in which you will need to build your skills if you are lacking in any of these areas.

Note: the business owner is the main obstacle to business growth. If you do not have the skills, your business will not grow beyond the limit of your own knowledge. Bringing in qualified staff can help solve this issue, but you will still need to develop your own expertise so that you can carry out checks and balances.

Additional resources to grow a small poultry business

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Key message

As your business starts to grow, remember to keep your costs as low as possible. This will help increase your profits. These profits can then be used to grow your business, lessening your dependence on banks or other funders. If you decide to apply for a grant or business loan, make sure that your business plan is up to date with all the information that funders need. Depending on your ambitions for your business, you may also be required to submit a feasibility study and an environmental impact study. Click here to see what should be included in a business plan.

If you are preparing to ask for funding, also check out this post about how much you can borrow and this post about additional factors that banks use to determine if they are willing to lend you money.

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